Taking Five Professional Development Courses

Peter Drucker, the famed management consultant, educator, and author, once said, “Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.” It was this line of thinking that prompted me to create the goal to take five professional development courses this year. Working from home during quarantine proved to be the perfect time to take the following:

Creating a Career Plan

Description: An effective career plan includes knowing how to determine, articulate, and sell your personal brand. In this course, the learner walks through the key steps of career planning, from identifying a dream job to branding and networking.

Biggest takeaway: I have to work harder to grow my professional network. I never realized just how small my non-Ohio network was until I left my university job at the beginning of 2019. I have since worked hard to rectify this by introducing myself to new people at work and connecting with people on LinkedIn. These simple but effective practices have widened my network, and I look forward to further enriching it as I continue meeting people.

Communication Foundations

Description: This course provides valuable insight into how one can communicate more effectively in a variety of professional situations, including meetings, emails, and presentations.

Biggest takeaway: learning how to run more effective meetings. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has worked with me, but I hate long, seemingly pointless meetings. I am the king of thinking, “This could have been an email.” This course provided tools to combat this pet peeve by describing strategies for how to set clear agendas and manage a meeting’s duration to ensure its efficiency.

Writing with Impact

Description: This course helps the learner pinpoint their reasons for writing while demonstrating how to use that motivation to drive the words they choose and the tone they take.

Biggest takeaway: grab the reader’s attention in the first five seconds. I will be the first to admit that introductions are not my strong suit, so it’s an area I want to devote more attention to in the future. The need for this was highlighted when I analyzed the blog posts I’ve emailed this year and found that the most-opened one had an eye-catching opening line. I wrote, “Two weeks ago, I heard words one never wants to hear when answering a phone call from their mom…” As I strive to be a more effective communicator, I plan to hone my ability to write more compelling introductions that will prompt my readers to continue past the opening lines.

Remote Work Foundations

Description: This course reveals how one can create a productive work environment at home by structuring their day correctly and avoiding distractions. The instructor also explains how to build rapport with remote colleagues and succeed in one’s career.

Biggest takeaway: collaboration is key to having a strong, successful remote team. This course was quite timely since I’ve worked remotely for the past four months. While I am one who tends to push for solo projects, I’ve learned how important it is to work with colleagues. This is especially true when you don’t see them regularly, so I made it a goal to participate in as many group projects as I could and am confident I will return to the office with stronger work relationships as a result of this collaboration.

Leading without Formal Authority

Description: Leadership and personal development experts outline how individual contributors can exhibit leadership by influencing, inspiring, mentoring, and motivating others.

Biggest takeaway: developing trust is an integral part of informal leadership. Ever since I’ve gone from managing people in previous jobs to supporting a team in my current position, I’ve struggled to assert myself in a way that doesn’t come across as an employee staging a coup. This course helped me tackle this unique challenge by outlining how to establish trust with those both above and around me to show that I should be given additional responsibilities.

I have already seen the fruits of this labor as I’ve become the go-to person to tackle projects that go far above and beyond my job description. This has given me a chance to share my insight and contribute to the organization while also proving myself as a capable leader in many different situations. I know I won’t be in my current position forever, but I plan to continue discovering ways to lead while in a role that doesn’t explicitly require leadership.

I put off taking professional development courses far too long because I figured they would be a waste of my time, but I now see how valuable they can be for both professional and personal growth. I am fortunate to have an employer that offers such courses free of charge, but even if you don’t have a similar option, I would highly recommend finding ones that will help shape you as a professional. I promise the lessons will be well worth your time.

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